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Chapter 1. Economy 
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Jeanette wrote:
I agree. I worked as a governess in the late '70s on an outback property (ranch). I loved the way of life, no TV, no phone, very little radio, plenty of magnificant country and room to live. However I recognised quite quickly that the price paid for this wonderful lifestyle was huge debt, anxiety and unending hard work. I suspect T could see this as the downside to farming.


Quote:
"Unable to compete internationally on the cotton market, cotton farmers in central India, the second-biggest cotton producer after China, have spent a decade falling deeper into debt. According to government estimates, more than 160,000 farmers have killed themselves because of those debts."

http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/c ... page_2.htm
WTO: Why India and China Said No to U.S.



Fri Aug 01, 2008 10:40 am
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Quote:
huge debt, anxiety and unending hard work. I suspect T could see this as the downside to farming.


It's big downside. all right, but what's the alternative? What reasonable alternative does T really suggest? Would sympathy with the farmers' plight be in order, maybe? As much as I admire T, to me there is that suspicion that he comes up a little short in compassion, in appreciation of the daily struggle that others undergo. They can't just chuck it all, as T might have thought they could.

DWill



Fri Aug 01, 2008 3:28 pm
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DWill wrote:
It's big downside. all right, but what's the alternative? What reasonable alternative does T really suggest? Would sympathy with the farmers' plight be in order, maybe? As much as I admire T, to me there is that suspicion that he comes up a little short in compassion, in appreciation of the daily struggle that others undergo. They can't just chuck it all, as T might have thought they could.


Will, as I understand Walden, Thoreau's solution to "lives of quiet desperation", which is as true for laid off workers as for struggling farmers, is greater self-reliance, creativity, and flexibility. Do for yourself first, then do for others. Charity begins at home. Better a small cottage you build yourself than a furnished appartment you may be turned out of.

It doesn't come through as sympathy in Walden, but Thoreau took his share of hard knocks. He was dying of TB. The second year at Walden his crops were destroyed by an exceptionally late frost. He supported himself by carpentry and farm labor, and then was kicked by a horse. As I understand the event, he had periods of weakness from this blow to the spleen (I think) for the rest of his life. He wanted to make it as a writer but failed economically, especially as contrasted with Emerson who wrote what sold. He sustained himself by surveying, and I think he might have had a share in the graphite powder business. I don't think he ever made much by lecturing. He survived and created by rolling with the blows, not good fortune.

Tom



Fri Aug 01, 2008 6:45 pm
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Good points, Tom. Still, is he or is he not a bit of a misanthrope, is the question that runs through my mind. If he is, is there something wrong with that?--another question.

With your knowledge of his life, you might have info on something that has intrigued me, and also relates to the misanthropy question. Emerson had a brother named Buckley who was intellectually disabled. He lived in some kind of special facility which I don't believe was an institution such as we have today. Maybe it was more like a farm. Anyway, I read that Thoreau mentions in his journals going to visit Buckley, apparently a considerable walk that would not have phased HDT at all. Do you know anything about Buckley and HDT's relationship with him? I feel that HDT would have had strong feelings about the essential humanity of Buckley, similar perhaps to his feelings regarding the slaves whom he assisted. Not looking like much of a misanthrope from this angle! The key for HDT might be essential humanity vs. the obscuring additions that civilization could engender.

DWill

P.S. A hint from you that Emerson was a sellout?



Sat Aug 02, 2008 7:46 am
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DWill wrote:
Emerson had a brother named Buckley who was intellectually disabled. He lived in some kind of special facility which I don't believe was an institution such as we have today. Maybe it was more like a farm. Anyway, I read that Thoreau mentions in his journals going to visit Buckley, apparently a considerable walk that would not have phased HDT at all. Do you know anything about Buckley and HDT's relationship with him? I feel that HDT would have had strong feelings about the essential humanity of Buckley, similar perhaps to his feelings regarding the slaves whom he assisted.


Will, about Buckley, I posted to Waldenlist:

>"Half-witted men from the almshouse and elsewhere came to see me; but
I endeavored to make them exercise all the wit they had, and make
their confessions to me; in such cases making wit the theme of our
conversation; and so was compensated. Indeed, I found some of them to
be wiser than the so-called overseers of the poor and selectmen of
the town, and thought it was time that the tables were turned. With
respect to wit, I learned that there was not much difference between
the half and the whole. One day, in particular, an inoffensive,
simple-minded pauper, whom with others I had often seen used as
fencing stuff, standing or sitting on a bushel in the fields to keep
cattle and himself from straying, visited me, and expressed a wish to
live as I did. He told me, with the utmost simplicity and truth,
quite superior, or rather inferior, to anything that is called
humility, that he was "deficient in intellect." These were his words.
The Lord had made him so, yet he supposed the Lord cared as much for
him as for another. "I have always been so," said he, "from my
childhood; I never had much mind; I was not like other children; I am
weak in the head. It was the Lord's will, I suppose." And there he
was to prove the truth of his words. He was a metaphysical puzzle to
me. I have rarely met a fellowman on such promising ground -- it was
so simple and sincere and so true all that he said. And, true enough,
in proportion as he appeared to humble himself was he exalted. I did
not know at first but it was the result of a wise policy. It seemed
that from such a basis of truth and frankness as the poor weak-headed
pauper had laid, our intercourse might go forward to something better
than the intercourse of sages"(6.15).

"Emerson had a brother named Buckley who was intellectually
disabled." Could one of Thoreau's simple-minded visitors have been
Buckley?<

And this is the answer I got:

>IIRC correctly, Emerson's brother didn't live with him.

Robert Bulkely Emerson had since 1828 been taken care of at McLean's
Asylum in Charlestown, taken there by his physician and Waldo in a
carriage. The only contact I know of that Thoreau had with him, was that
when he died, it was left to Thoreau to arrange his funeral service.<

If you remember, would you say where in the Journal Thoreau mentions his visit to Buckley?

Tom



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Oh, man, thanks for the excerpt about Thoreau's visitor; it's a fabulous passage. There's a big advantage in being so "connected." I wish I could tell you where in the Journals. I'm not even sure it was in the Journals. All I remember is a reference somewhere to T having gone off to visit Buckley Emerson. I will look in the few books I have in the house; maybe it's in one of them.

DW



Sat Aug 02, 2008 4:59 pm
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DWill wrote:
I wish I could tell you where in the Journals. I'm not even sure it was in the Journals. All I remember is a reference somewhere to T having gone off to visit Buckley Emerson. I will look in the few books I have in the house; maybe it's in one of them.


Will, don't go to a lot of trouble about this. Thoreau would have checked up on Bulkeley (a hard to spell name) regularly for Emerson, I imagine. I was wondering if Bulkeley's mind were good enough for them to have had a friendly relationship.

Tom



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Post Thoreau's privy
What Tom said when we first started about the privy stuck in my mind. He never mentions how he managed his waste, and it might seem, in a book where he's going to talk about fronting the essentials of life, that he might tell us about this. But, maybe it's not anything to to be concerned about. I had an offline discussion with Saffron about it. She didn't see anything necessarily meaningful in what a writer leaves out. He just didn't think it was important, maybe as simple as that. So I suppose I won't speculate about why we don't hear about the location or construction of his privy.

DWill



Tue Aug 05, 2008 5:36 pm
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Post Re: Thoreau's privy
DWill wrote:
What Tom said when we first started about the privy stuck in my mind. He never mentions how he managed his waste, . . .


He did give some hints :)

"But as it was, I considered that I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it" (1.87).

"I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons" (1.29).


Will, just Control-F the index number to jump directly to the paragraph.

And, so I understand, he did have an outhouse. Research has disclosed that each Irish shanty by the railroad had an outhouse behind it.

Tom



Tue Aug 05, 2008 6:56 pm
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DWill & Tom,
I suspect that T never mentioned the outhouse because it was so mundane and ubiquitous a thing. Did he mention having bedsheets? A spoon? A sweater? A hat? I think if there had been some special consideration or modification of the outhouse, he may well have mentioned it.

Also, T was writing with a purpose. His words and topics were carefully chosen in pursuit of this purpose. What would talking about his outhouse have illustrated? I would venture to guess that if he had felt that any aspect of the outhouse would have served his point, he'd have written about it.

Saffron



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Saffron, I know this discussion borders on poor taste, but I don't think it's entirely irrelevant. New England folk humor -- my impression -- tends toward the scatological. A lady pointed this out to me: "I also heard the whooping of the ice in the pond, my great bed-fellow in that part of Concord, as if it were restless in its bed and would fain turn over, were troubled with flatulency and had dreams; . . ." (15.3), and she used plainer English.

Quote:
Did he mention having bedsheets? A spoon? A sweater? A hat?


He doesn't mention a sweater, although his sisters may have made him one, but he does mention bedsheets, spoon, and hat:

"But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship God in, they will do; will they not?" (1.36).

"While one thick garment is, for most purposes, as good as three thin ones, and cheap clothing can be obtained at prices really to suit customers; while a thick coat can be bought for five dollars, which will last as many years, thick pantaloons for two dollars, cowhide boots for a dollar and a half a pair, a summer hat for a quarter of a dollar, and a winter cap for sixty-two and a half cents, or a better be made at home at a nominal cost, where is he so poor that, clad in such a suit, of his own earning, there will not be found wise men to do him reverence?" (1.37).

"As if one were to wear any sort of coat which the tailor might cut out for him, or, gradually leaving off palm-leaf hat or cap of woodchuck skin, complain of hard times because he could not afford to buy him a crown! (1.54).

"My furniture, part of which I made myself -- and the rest cost me nothing of which I have not rendered an account -- consisted of a bed, a table, a desk, three chairs, a looking-glass three inches in diameter, a pair of tongs and andirons, a kettle, a skillet, and a frying-pan, a dipper, a wash-bowl, two knives and forks, three plates, one cup, one spoon, a jug for oil, a jug for molasses, and a japanned lamp (1.89).

". . .uneasy housekeepers who pried into my cupboard and bed when I was out -- how came Mrs. -- to know that my sheets were not as clean as hers?" (6.17).

I offer a version of Walden that makes it easy to check on questions of detail. You could also get it from Will.

Tom



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Ok, so he mentioned the spoon, hat and bedsheets. But do you see, Tom, that he employees the mention of those items to make a point; that being the value of simplicity. If he'd had a point to make with the outhouse, he'd have written it.



Tue Aug 05, 2008 8:21 pm
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Saffron wrote:
But do you see, Tom, that he employees the mention of those items to make a point; that being the value of simplicity.


OK, Saffron, I agree that simplicity is a fundamental value, but he does tell us about such aspects of his dwelling as cellar and woodshed:

12.10 A phoebe soon built in my shed,

"My employment out of doors now was to collect the dead wood in the forest, bringing it in my hands or on my shoulders, or sometimes trailing a dead pine tree under each arm to my shed (13.12).

"But commonly I kindled my fire with the dry leaves of the forest, which I had stored up in my shed before the snow came" (13.16).

Tom



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Post Re: Thoreau's privy
[quote="Thomas Hood] He did give some hints :)

"But as it was, I considered that I enhanced the value of the land by squatting on it" (1.87).

"I have watered the red huckleberry, the sand cherry and the nettle-tree, the red pine and the black ash, the white grape and the yellow violet, which might have withered else in dry seasons" (1.29).[/quote]

Can't argue with that, can you, Saffron? Good pick-up, Tom.



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Your kidding, right?



Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:10 am
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